The Affordable Care Act: Fulfilling Promises, Cutting Costs

This post is part of a weekly “Did You Know” blog series that highlights important, but not well known features of the health reform law about prevention, wellness, and personal responsibility for our health. 

StethoscopeDid you know that the Affordable Care Act has already expanded affordable preventive health coverage to 54 million Americans?

If you’ve been following the Shriver Brief health care blogs, you probably remember reading about the Affordable Care Act mandate that insurance companies provide a specified list of preventive health care services to policy holders without charging a co-payment or deductible. Services like screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol; testing for Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and colorectal cancer; and alcohol and tobacco cessation counseling, among others are included in the mandate. Additional preventive health services like childhood immunizations; screenings for hearing, vision, and oral health; as well as testing for autism, HIV, and obesity, among others must be provided free of co-payment for children’s care. And starting in August of this year, insured women will be able to receive a set of women’s preventive health benefits like well-woman visits, FDA-approved contraception, mammograms, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screening and counseling, also without cost-sharing. The health reform law requires that all of these free preventive health services are provided by insurance companies for anybody with a new or a so-called “non-grandfathered” insurance plan. And the most recent research shows that people—tens of millions of people—are already receiving these preventive services, for free!

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “31% of all workers were covered by plans that expanded their list of covered preventive services due to the Affordable Care Act.” Using this data, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was able to calculate just how many people are benefiting from expanded preventive health coverage across the country. HHS estimates that 54 million Americans—and counting—have received one or more of the Affordable Care Act’s mandated preventive health services free of co-payment or cost-sharing. This number breaks down to over 20 million women, 14 million children, and 19.5 million men making use of their increased access to affordable and essential preventive health care. Illinois was among the top five states to benefit the most, with almost 2.4 million Illinois residents receiving free preventive health care services! And this number will only continue to grow as more and more people choose to enroll in new or “non-grandfathered” health plans, and as the health reform law rolls out its final stages in 2014, adding 16 million individuals to the private health insurance market.

These kinds of meaningful, money-saving provisions in the Health Reform law are making a real impact at a time of need, when many individuals and families affected by the recession have been resorting to cutting back on basic medical care to make ends meet. A Kaiser Family Foundation study conducted in 2009 found that 53 percent of American families were cutting back on medical care because of the cost. In 2010, the Commonwealth Fund reported that 25 percent of Americans were cutting back on recommended tests like blood pressure tests, colonoscopies, mammograms, and other potentially life-saving cancer screenings. And just recently, a study from the University of North Carolina’s medical school found that, during the height of the recession, adults between the ages of 50 and 64 received 500,000 fewer colonoscopies compared to the couple of years before the economy turned, even though the colonoscopies can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer in half. The good news is the Affordable Care Act is increasing access to many of these preventive health tests and screenings at a price Americans can afford.

Households all over the country are pinching pennies trying to stay afloat during hard economic times. Thank you, Affordable Care Act, for working diligently to make sure that nobody’s health is sacrificed because of the cost of care.


Interested in an in-person presentation on how health reform is rolling out in Illinois and what it means for individuals? Are you a direct service provider or advocate for vulnerable populations and interested in how the Affordable Care Act will impact the population you serve? Rachel Gielau, health policy expert at the Shriver Center, is giving free in-person presentations to Illinois audiences on how health reform is affecting individual and families in Illinois. Contact Rachel Gielau at 312-368-1154 to set up a presentation for your organization!

This blog post was coauthored by Rachel Gielau.

 

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